The Green River region in western Kentucky has had eight Presidentially declared disasters since 1997 according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) including floods, tornadoes, hail, straight line winds and snow. The region is also vulnerable to earthquakes from the New Madrid and Wabash Valley fault zones. In the seven county region approximately 70% of the population and 90% of the surface area is served by volunteer fire departments. Emergency managers have identified a need for at least 500 trained volunteers in the region to assist first responders who may be overwhelmed in a disaster.
AmeriCorps members sponsored by county Emergency Management and other disaster preparedness agencies recruit volunteers from throughout the seven county area for training as Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). The initial class with 20 volunteers was held in 2003 in Daviess County. Hancock County, with the help of an AmeriCorps member, began offering CERT training in 2006. The program becomes truly regional in 2007 as Henderson County joins the training rotation. To date 316 community volunteers from all seven counties in the region have been trained as CERT members.
CERT volunteers are trained to help family and neighbors before first responders arrive on the scene in the event of a disaster. Our CERT volunteers are equipped with basic tools and supplies necessary for them to assist in the event of a disaster. They are supplied with a hard hat, safety vest, identification, basic medical supplies, a wrench (to shut off natural gas valves) and more. CERT training is a series of eight classes given one night a week. Training is conducted by certified professionals, who volunteer their time, and includes Disaster Preparedness, Terrorism, Fire Suppression, First Aid, Medical Triage, Search & Rescue, Disaster Psychology, and the final class is a live exercise utilizing all of their training.
AmeriCorps members, working with their agencies, provide follow up training, including Weather Spotter classes and Pandemic Flu Summit, to CERT members to keep them active and involved. CERT members also participate in other Citizen Corps programs including Volunteers in Police Service, Firecorps, Neighborhood Watch, and Medical Reserve Corps. Many volunteers are active in more than one Citizen Corps program.
The CERT program in the Green River region is the most active such program in Kentucky. The growth and development of the program here is a direct result of the involvement of AmeriCorps members adding capacity to their host agencies and their ability to effectively recruit volunteers. For many CERT members this is their first volunteer experience. At every meeting or training session members share stories about how they were prepared through their CERT training to assist someone injured in a traffic accident or helped direct traffic at a fire incident.
The Homeland Security Corps was recognized with a Distinguished Achievement Award from the National Association of Regional Councils in 2004.